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Small-town pals put spirit of entrepreneurship to good use

Louis Herrera, right, co-owner of Indian Motorcycle in Albuquerque, holds some cleaning tools while he talks with customer Kevin Yellowhair. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Louis Herrera, right, co-owner of Indian Motorcycle in Albuquerque, holds some cleaning tools while he talks with customer Kevin Yellowhair. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The dusty back roads of Questa hardly seem like the place from which two budding entrepreneurs would hail.

But, in some ways, it provided the perfect backdrop for cousins Michael Gaillour and Louis Herrera to learn the basics of running a business. Especially one that involves the freedom of the open road

The lessons were hard and sometimes painful in the tiny berg best known for its proximity to a molybdenum mine. The town snuggled against the towering backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains was filled with more adventure than people.

“When I was a senior, we had a graduating class of about 20 people,” Herrera said. And his guidance counselor advised him not to go to college.

Indian Motorcycle owners Louis Herrera, left, and Michael Gaillour pose in the showroom of their dealership in Albuquerque. The two men grew up in Questa, where their fathers had businesses together. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Indian Motorcycle owners Louis Herrera, left, and Michael Gaillour pose in the showroom of their dealership in Albuquerque. The two men grew up in Questa, where their fathers had businesses together. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“And I was the student body president,” he recalled. “That really gave me something to drive me. I don’t know where I’d be if I had listened to her.”

Instead, Herrera and Gaillour have gone on to unmeasured success and just recently opened the local dealership for Indian Motorcycle, the iconic American motorcycle company that actually predates Harley-Davidson.

The 9,000-square-foot shop that had to be completely gutted and remodeled to national specs from scratch is now filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of gleaming motorcycles, custom parts and service bays aplenty.

Reaching this point, however, the pair traveled down some windy roads.

Gaillour, several years behind Herrera in high school, got an MBA from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management and went into banking, rising to the point where he is now senior vice president for New Mexico Bank & Trust. He joined it when it first started with about $50 million in assets and now the local bank has more than $1 billion in assets, Gaillour said.

“I always knew I wanted to own a business, I just never knew what type of business that was going to be,” he said. “It was getting to the point I thought I would just be doing banking for the rest of my career, which was fine.”

From left, master motorcycle technician Jim “Gumby” Langwell talks to Indian Motorcycle owners Michael Gaillour and Louis Herrera in the service area of their dealership in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

From left, master motorcycle technician Jim “Gumby” Langwell talks to Indian Motorcycle owners Michael Gaillour and Louis Herrera in the service area of their dealership in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Herrera headed off to New Mexico Highlands University, where he first earned an undergrad degree in biochemistry, then joined the U.S. Army, serving in an airborne company in Panama. Upon the end of his service term, he remained connected to the military through the New Mexico National Guard, serving a deployment as lieutenant colonel in the Sinai, about 10 miles from the Gaza strip. He remains the brigade executive officer for the 93rd Troop Brigade in Santa Fe.

Herrera put his degree to use at the executive levels in power and utility companies across Central and South America.

Before launching themselves on the world, however, Gaillour and Herrera watched their fathers own numerous businesses together in Questa, ranging from a gas station to an auto repair shop.

So the entrepreneurial spirit was instilled at a young age.

When Gaillour headed off to Albuquerque to attend UNM, he made himself a vow.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m not going back until it’s on my own terms.'”

Of course, he had some adjusting to do beforehand.

“My dorm had more people living in it than in all of Questa,” Gaillour said. “When you get to the city, you have to shut everything down. I had to shove myself down to study, quiet my mind and just do the job of being a student. That was an adjustment for me.”

Michael Gaillour is shown on a dirt bike in August 1978 when he was 14 years old. (Courtesy photo)

Michael Gaillour is shown on a dirt bike in August 1978 when he was 14 years old. (Courtesy photo)

In Questa, “everybody knows you. They say it takes a village to raise a child and we were raised by a village. Everybody knows your parents. They know what you’re doing,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that upbringing for anything.”

And when Gaillour heard that Polaris was bringing back Indian motorcycles, he began research into opening an Albuquerque dealership. And he could think of no better partner for the project than his hometown compadre.

“We knew it was an opportunity we had to get in on,” Gaillour said, adding New Mexico and motorcycles were made for each other. “The land and the mountains and winding roads. They even did a lot of their marketing pictures here, out at White Mesa near San Ysidro and at the Railyards downtown.”

It’s all pretty heady stuff for a couple of boys from small-town New Mexico.

“We are blessed,” Herrera said. “Our dads always told us that hard work and education was the best thing. That’s what they taught us.”

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